The Guangdong connection

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 15:14:00 BST

Teams of experts fly to China to teach a new approach to education

VET team

Dr Martyn Walker (first left, front) with key figures in the University of Huddersfield's Vocational Education and Training project with Guangdong, China, including Professor Yan Bai (centre), director of  China's  National Teacher Training Centre of Vocational Education.

EDUCATION experts at the University of Huddersfield are playing a key role in a Chinese government project which is designed to ensure that the country’s massive economic growth does not falter.

Teams of lecturers from the University’s School of Education and Professional Development (SEPD) have been flying out every month to the province of Guangdong, the most heavily populated in China. There, they have instructed hundreds of the province’s most promising teachers in the principles of student-centred learning, which aims to ensure that pupils develop creativity and teamwork skills and increase their employability.

The project is led by the University of Huddersfield’s Dr Martyn Walker, who said: ‘The government in Beijing is concerned that China’s industrial growth and development will not be sustainable without developing new teaching and learning strategies to promote creativity and innovation.”

Student-centred learning – the opposite to rigid learning by rote in the classroom- was seen as a key to unlocking the full potential of young Chinese.  Lecturers at the University of Huddersfield have expertise in the field.

The project is named Vocational Education and Training (VET) and it was in 2010 that the National Teacher Training Centre of Vocational Education in China secured Chinese government funding and approached the University of Huddersfield’s SEPD to carry out the project.

Dr Qing Zhang, an alumnus of the University of Huddersfield, with an MA and a PhD in educational subjects played a key role in securing the bid. Professor Yan Bai, who directs the National Teacher Training Centre of Vocational Education in China and is responsible for successfully bidding for the project, made a private visit to the University of Huddersfield to see her son, Wei Zou, receive his Masters degree from the School of Business. It was an opportunity to meet with the VET team while she was here.

“It is really good to know that our international alumni are so passionate about working with us,” said Dr Walker. “Dr Qing is proud of her time with the School and sees the project as a way of keeping in close contact with us and supporting the work we do.”

Some 25 University of Huddersfield lecturers have so far been involved in the scheme and they have taught a total of 2,500.

Dr Walker said “They find the experience highly rewarding and they are very well looked after. The classes are taught in Cantonese and we are provided with brilliant translators.”

Dr Walker added that student-centred learning was a new idea in China, but had been identified by the government as a way to increase the motivation, teamwork skills and creativity of young people. He has paid visits to Guangdong himself and when he delivered a lecture that covered the University of Huddersfield’s long tradition of vocational education – dating back to the Mechanics’ Institute of the 19th century – he found that his hosts were fascinated with such a long history of involvement in this aspect of education.

The VET scheme for Guangdong Province is due to continue beyond May 2013 as further government funding has recently been secured by the National Teacher Training Centre of Vocational Education in Centre.

 Prof Bob Cryan and Prof Yan Bai

 The University of Huddersfield's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan, meets Professor Yan Bai, director of the National Teacher Training Centre of Vocational Education in China, and her son Wei Zou, who has received his Masters degree from the School of Business.

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